Mike Kunkel interview

 height=(WoW MAY 08)

Mike Kunkel is the creator of the popular all ages book, Herobear and the Kid. This month, he begins this latest project, DC's Billy Batson & the Magic of Shazam! . Westfield's Roger Ash recently got in touch with Mike to learn more about this book.

Westfield: How did Billy Batson & The Magic Of Shazam! come about? Are you a fan of Captain Marvel?

Mike Kunkel: Last year, after Jeff Smith had done his Captain Marvel story, the amazing Jann Jones contacted me from high atop the DC Rock of Eternity, and asked if I'd be interested in a new line of books they were starting. A brand new All-Ages line.

Yessssssssssssss, I said quickly before she changed her mind. I'm still blown away and flattered by her's and Dan Didio's confidence and interest in me to be part of it. And then to offer Captain Marvel... well, I can't even begin to express my excitement. I am such a huge fan of Captain Marvel! Since I was a kid, I've always loved the idea of the wish fulfillment opportunity that Billy was presented with. It plays into so much of what I like to create. There are similar morals and ideals and nostalgia in Herobear that I feel were somehow influenced by the likes of Captain Marvel. And I think that gave Jann and Dan and Paul Levitz something to base a trust in me on to take such a beloved character and present him in a fully formed all-ages direction. Of course, the 5 bucks a week I send to all of them each Friday may soften their hearts to me as well.

Westfield: How is your take on Captain Marvel similar or different from what's been done in the past?

Kunkel: Hmmmm, that's hard to answer because I'm on the inside of this looking out at the audience, and I may not see all the differences or similarities. However, from my point of view, I think it's similar in the sense that I'm really trying to capture an innocence and fun in the adventures and stories that was there in the best of them. The world of Captain Marvel was always a universe unto itself and has always been a wonderful one to play in. I want to stay in that world and stay true to a lot of the earlier incarnations that came before. In the end though, whether it's C.C. Beck or Kurt Schaffenberger or Kevin Maguire or Alex Ross, they all have a perspective of Cap that is fun, and I will always have an appreciation and care for the different incarnations that have come before, but in the end, most importantly, I will have that respect for the core character that is simply Captain Marvel... a boy is chosen to be given an amazing magic word, and how does that affect his life. I may have said it before, but I really believe in Billy's optimistic view on life, and that guides my storytelling in this series. At the core of it all, much like Batman, Billy lost his parents at an early age. However, instead of desiring to strike with revenge and punishment at the world like Bruce Wayne, Billy desires to give hope and protection. I always saw this coming from his new found powers and also from having his little sister still with him and in his care.

It may sound overly sweet in this day of ultra hard-core heroes, but essentially he's the big brother... not only to Mary, but also to the world.

Westfield: What can people look forward to in the book? Anything you want to say about upcoming stories?

Kunkel: This series is one that I'm putting everything I've got into. I'm really trying to make a definite all-ages fun series for kids and adults to enjoy on many levels. You know, I really look forward to everyone getting to know Billy and Mary's life even better, so that then when they are our heroes Captain Marvel and Mary Marvel, it will mean that we are that much closer to them as characters. What if you had been given this magic word? What would you do? That is what I am exploring with the characters. What are there relationships and care for each other in this world.

As far as what is coming up... well, the first story arc is the Return of Black Adam. I'm having a great time with it. It's fun because Theo Adam/Black Adam is the perfect villain to Billy/Captain Marvel. Plus, he's such a little punk. You can see right away that this is the wrong person to be given the gift of the magic word.

Westfield: Will you be bringing in other classic cast members?

Kunkel: Well, there is most certainly going to be Mary Marvel, Black Adam, and Dr. Sivana. They are very integral to Billy's character. Mr. Morris is there as well as the owner of WHIZ Studios. There also might be some new characters. I haven't decided fully yet when Talky Tawny, Mr. Mind, and some of the other classic characters will be arriving. There's no rush though, they will find their way in eventually, but I want to really establish the world first and then bring in those characters naturally. I do really look forward to it though. There are so many fun characters in this universe to explore.

Westfield: Are there any other projects you're working on that you'd like to mention?

Kunkel: My friends and family would say that I'm always spinning a lot of plates. But I have taken a little bit of a break from working in house at the studios in animation. That was very important to me. I do still have about 3 TV projects that are actively in development and also one of my children's books is now being developed as a feature in Europe. Sooooo, sure I'm busy on one hand, but that's all really in the background, because honestly I'm devoting my energy directly into this Captain Marvel series. And I love it! It has been so much fun to immerse myself into these stories about Billy, Captain Marvel, and the magic word. I don't want to stop. I'd love to keep doing this for such a long time.

Westfield: Any closing comments?

Kunkel: Thank you all for your enthusiasm and anticipation for this series. I'm so excited about it. I can't wait to share it with everyone. And I really hope they all like. I actually would love to see and hear from people saying that this is a series that they are not only enjoying themselves, but that they are enjoying sharing with others.

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